Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rizal and Ambeth Ocampo

Next year, Rizal is going to be one hundred and fifty years old. In the past three weeks, I've been to three places where Rizal's memory and history is preserved. It's not unlikely that he'll be in the book I am completing. What is a collection of Filipino folk tales with out the mention or the inclusion of Jose Rizal?

Today, I was with Yumi Pitargue for an unguided tour of Manila - the Cathedral, San Agustin Church, Luneta and of course, Fort Santiago. I could not help but ask her who taught her Rizal in college. Her answer -- AMBETH OCAMPO. She said his name with a twinkle in her eyes.

This made me ask further what she thinks of his lessons and classes on Rizal. She replied, "He's like a stand up comic!" Her reply made me think. It only goes to show how creative and imaginative a teacher Ambeth Ocampo is. I sat in several of his lectures on Rizal and Philippine History and yes, like Yumi, I was engaged.

Funny how a former colleague who has chaired the Social Studies department in my former school raised an eyebrow when I told her that a common friend has attended Ambeth Ocampo's lectures. I was intrigued by her reaction since she's a member of the National Historical Institute. In her opinion, Ambeth Ocampo fictionalizes history so much that facts are obscured from history. Oh well. I've heard this one before.

I enjoyed my history classes since grade school till college and yes, I aced the subject. I had teachers, like my former colleague, who gave a big deal on dates and facts but for me, history is the construction of meaning. To be able to do this, one needs the skill of imagination; of reading beyond the lines. And I discovered this on my own despite the traditional instruction I got from my history teachers. Beyond dates and facts, history is a clump of STORIES - real or not, who cares? The traditionalists, maybe. But, fact or fiction, it is essential to derive meaning from these stories.

This is what Ambeth Ocampo does, to me, at least. That's how I see it. He goes beyond facts and trivia, dates and time lines and challenges you, the student, the reader of his articles and the listeners of his lectures to IMAGINE history. Is that wrong? I say that it is a creative way to make meaning from the past.

When I told Yumi of the many critics her former Rizal professor has on his methods, she simply said, "But I remember more of Rizal through his teachings. It was fun."

I know, Yumi. I know.

To Rizal who was a teacher too; to Prof. Ambeth Ocampo; and to all the teachers who've made boring classes come alive, belated Happy Teacher's Day!


angelhair said...

I have never been in this place even if I am a filipino, next time I visited manila, I got to go on this famous landmark. Thanks for sharing

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blooey said...

I got an A in Ambeth Ocampo's class. One of my all-time favorite college classes! :)

His class was such a hit other students would sit in our class for fun!

Zarah Grace C. Gagatiga said...

angelhair - you have so many choices! we're talking about 7,000 islands :-)

blooey - history should be fun!

Bopeep said...

Zarah, have you been to Dapitan? I am very lucky to have gone there with Ambeth. Priceless!

Anonymous said...

Haha.. I've also encountered some of the critics of the great professor and yes one of them is actually a man from NHI and the rest are from the country's "premier" university...and like you my reaction is the same..well, all i know is I've learned,remembered and now appreciate our history better/ more from him and his books than all the REQUIRED textbooks from A (agoncillo) to Z (zaide) combined.oh and btw, actually some of them even attend his lectures..talk about hypocrites!^_*

monina said...

:) I remember my Rizal professor not with fondness but with a feeling of disappointment. She gave us an essay question for our finals and when i got back my papers i found a big red notation on it saying: "Who are you? are you an expert? you should not say "I THINK". The essay question? Who should be the national hero, Rizal or Bonifacio.

By hindsight, i guess she was just one more overworked teacher who just wanted to give an X or a tick mark and not have to read what a 17 y.o. was thinking...

So it's quite refreshing to hear a history teacher urging you to think outside the box and IMAGINE what a piece of data might actually mean and go beyond dry facts to find the heart of the issue. And YES! I also attend Prof. Ocampo's lectures and buy his books. I wish that more young people can attend his lectures.

phoebe said...

no matter what the critics say against sir ambeth's works they cannot deny the fact that he is the best history writer there is, in today's generation...he is the only historian who made me appreciate the relevance,and beauty of Philippine history and most of all he made it fun and educational! no one can beat that feat!

Zarah Grace C. Gagatiga said...

ma'am bopeep - going to rizal's dapitan is a dream trip :-)

anonymous, iba na ang sikat :-)

monina - agree. but i missed his recent lectures at the ayala museum!

phoebe - and i wish i could write history like him :-)

Anonymous said...

how i wish that mr. ocampo can give lectures for the students in davao city

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